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Reflection on the day

Concern's Connell Foley blogs about the last session of Concern's Fighting Hunger Conference. Our other blogs on the conference outlined key content of the speeches and discussions across the first two sessions.

The last session on “Innovation in Fighting Hunger”, chaired by Brendan Rogers (Director General at Irish Aid) heard Sheila Susulu tell us about changes in the World Food Programme approach to its mission.

We also heard from the very impressive Akin Adesina (Vice president of Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa AGRA) on the plans and potential of AGRA in fighting hunger. Two relatively recently appointed, energetic and enthusiastic Ministers in Peter Power (Minister for Overseas Development, Ireland) and Agnes Abera Kalibata (State Minister for Agriculture, Rwanda) displayed a real desire for change and were positive voices.

New light

The part of the conference which threw new light on things happened in an accidental exchange. Mary Robinson had raised well-known concerns about AGRA: concerns about privatisation of resources; unscrupulous use of GM foods; concerns over genetic engineering; biodiversity and environmental impacts; social impacts and others.

A small number of questions from the floor echoed some of these concerns through the day. Akin Adesina came back to these concerns in the last session and was very skilful in saying that we did need to talk about these issues and said that it was extremely important to address them. But that was the extent of the engagement (well, in a one-day conference that is only to be expected!).

People commented on how sessions seemed to balance and complement each other: some pessimistic; others optimistic; female and male panels academics or researchers and practitioners. The constant call for action was at the heart of it and practical solutions were proffered by many of the speakers.

For many of us, this was a good thing and in line with the practical approach of an organisation like Concern, even if the NGO (even Concern’s specific!) voice got lost in the mix.